Safety and security
Petty theft and anti-social behaviour can occur, particularly around bars where people gather late at night in downtown Reykjavik. Take sensible precautions and avoid leaving valuables lying around.
You can drive using a valid UK or other EU/EEA driving licence. There is no need for an International Driving Permit.
Make sure you have the correct vehicle insurance cover before you arrive. Read the small print on car rental agreements and make sure you understand which damages are covered by the excess or damage waiver. Some car hire agreements limit the class of roads you are allowed to drive on. Costs for breakdown recovery, especially in remote areas, can be very high. Iceland can be affected by strong winds causing localised sand and ash storms. Though this extreme weather is infrequent, British tourists have had to pay significant sums of money to repair damage to hired cars caused by sand and ash.
Distances between towns can be great, roads are narrow and winding, and speed limits are low. Driving takes longer than you think. Take particular care on gravel and loose surfaces and reduce your speed when driving on them. Driving conditions may be hazardous and roads impassable, especially in winter. Winter (but not studded) tyres are mandatory from around 1 November to 14 April; however, exact dates can vary from year to year. Keep dipped headlights on at all times. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are high.
Many highland tracks are only open for a short part of the summer. If you intend to drive to the highland, or to the more remote regions of the country, check with the Icelandic Road Administration (Vegagerdin) - telephone +354 522 1000 - before you leave. This provides up to date information on all roads in the country and will also advise you on weather conditions and off-road driving, which is strictly controlled.
Beware of rapidly changing weather patterns, including river levels, which can change dramatically even within the same day. Driving in the highlands should only be done in a 4x4/4WD vehicle. When crossing rivers in the highlands, you should drive slowly (5-10kph) and use 4WD.
Drink/drive laws are strictly enforced. Alcohol limits are far stricter than UK levels. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are severe.
In 2016 there were 18 road deaths in Iceland. This equates to 5.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
See the AA guide on driving in Iceland.
Hotels in Iceland are often fully booked for the summer period. If you visit on flight only tickets make sure all your accommodation has been reserved before departure. The British Embassy can’t help you find accommodation.
Hiking and adventure tourism
Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports are increasingly popular activities in Iceland. Unfortunately each year there are incidents with visitors getting into difficulty and needing the help of the emergency services.
Follow the guidance of the Icelandic emergency services as detailed on the Safe Travel website. Leave travel plans and contact details with your hotel, or directly on the safe travel website, and take a mobile phone with you.
When hiking, choose a trail suited for you and your level of experience. Conditions in Iceland will be different to what you’re used to.
Take sufficient food, equipment, clothing and emergency rations, plus an appropriate means of communication, for the worst-case scenario. A map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment should always be used when travelling outside urban areas.
Going too close to the ocean, cliff edges and hot springs is a common cause for accidents in Iceland.